John Cho holds his own as leading man in Searching

searching john cho

Searching was easily one of my most anticipated movies of the summer. It follows the story of David Kim and his frantic search for his missing daughter. In a digital age where we are more connected to each other than ever before, David struggles with the harsh reality that he and his daughter have grown so far apart that he doesn’t really know her. With each passing day, desperation begins to set in and David begins to question who he can really trust.

Behind the camera for Searching are Aneesh Chaganty and Sev Ohanian. Sev Ohanian has been producing numerous indie films over the past ten years and was even a co-producer on Fruitvale Station, which led to director Ryan Coogler catching the eye of Sylvester Stallone and eventually Marvel Studios. Ohanian and Chaganty wrote the film together, with Chaganty directing his first full-length film. He and Ohanian have collaborated before when he was part of Google. Together, they worked on a short film entirely shot on Google Glass called Seeds, which went viral and was critically acclaimed. When asked why he chose to do the film, John Cho said originally he was not fond of doing the film on computer screens, but it was Chaganty’s enthusiasm and confidence that they could pull it off, and that sold him on it.

Over the past few years, computer screens have become a growing setting in movies and even video games. It is a growing genre that has yet to be named or defined, and director Aneesh Chaganty demonstrates in this film just how far it can be pushed. With these types of movies, the camera is always in the fix position, and it never moves unless another camera is revealed in the story. This seems to be a rule that was borrowed over from the found footage genre, and thankfully Chaganty does not adhere to it. By moving the camera across the screen, the audience eyes are directed to what’s important. We are able to understand David’s train of thought as he comes across more evidence.

One small touch I especially like was that the filmmakers created mock ads for David Kim. Given Chaganty’s background at Google, it is easy to see how he would understand how Google’s ad algorithm works. If you’re unfamiliar, Google will suggest ads to you based on your search history. So it was quite fitting when David Kim would come across ads for depression medication. I even believe there were even suggested videos on a YouTube page that were titled “How to connect with your children.” It’s the little details that just add another layer to the film’s thought process.

Being a longtime fan of actor John Cho and seeing his career grow from having a small role in American Pie to taking over the reins of Hikaru Sulu for George Takei, it was long overdue to finally show the world that he could more than hold his own as a leading man. What’s always interesting about these types of films is when you go behind the scenes, you often find out that majority of the time the lead actor is completely alone in a room emoting to a camera, which makes Cho’s performance all the more impressive. While spending a large portion of the film alone on screen, Cho is able to pull the audience into David Kim’s story. When he relives past memories through video files found on his hard drive, one can feel his sadness. And when things get tense, it’s downright uncomfortable to watch.

Going into the film I thought I had some kind of idea what to expect, but I couldn’t have been more wrong. Searching is a multi-faceted gripping thriller that will not only pull on your heart strings but leave you guessing to the very end. It is a shining example that Cho can be more than just a supporting character and that Aneesh Chaganty and Sev Ohanian are two names you should be on the lookout for in the near future.

Searching hits theaters August 24th.

Check out our video review below.

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